Industry advice for getting more sports sales referrals

by Bob Hamer - President & FOunder of Sports Business Solutions and Founder of the clubhouse
December 04, 2018

When I’m conducting sales training or talking to sales professionals, I’m often asked how to get more referrals. The reason I’m asked is because salespeople know that referrals are one of the most valuable lead sources around, and getting more of them will yield greater results.

They’re so valuable because they give you a direct “IN” with a potential decision maker, and when you get there, you already have built-in trust and credibility. Two of the hardest things to do in the sales process is: Get to the right person and build trust/rapport. With a referral, it’s easier to get both!

Ask any salesperson, in any industry, and they’ll tell you they love calling on referrals and ALL of them wished they received more. Hopefully we can help you do that! I have some advice for you sellers out there on how you can get more referrals, and I reached out to some others in the industry to share their advice as well, I’ve compiled it all for you below, hope you find it to be helpful!

“Ask it open ended” – Try and avoid asking “Do you know anyone interested in season tickets”, but rather, open it up, Who are the 2-3 biggest sports fans you know? They’re more likely to know a fan than someone interested in going to all the games. If asked open-ended, it necessitates a response vs. asking it close ended where they can just simply say "NO".

“Ask when you make a sale” – What better time to ask than when emotion is at an all time high?! Leverage the excitement about the product to make an ask for a referral. Congrats, welcome to the family! “We’re working on trying to fill the building for next year, who do you know that would also love to be a part of our season and who we can get sitting right beside you?!”

“Make it organic” – Based on what the prospect said earlier... Ask questions and listen, then if they say something that can lead to a referral, follow up on it. “You mentioned you work at ABC company, I just wanted to let you know we work with a lot of companies like yours helping them set up employee outings, how open would your company be to something like that? Who’s the best person to speak with?”

Industry Advice & Best Practices

Wade Graf – Executive Director, Ticket Sales & Service - Los Angeles Dodgers

Usually the sales reps who get referrals are the ones that ask for them. It’s important to make it part of your process. After talking on the phone and meeting face-to-face, clients really enjoy getting to know you and they want to help you out. Make the ask with confidence and be genuine. If you helped the prospect find tickets, and they had a good experience, ask them for three to five names of people in their personal or professional network that would also enjoy a similar great experience.

Eric Platte – Vice President, Ticket Sales - Atlanta Hawks

Ask every single call … “Who do you know”. Incentivize people where you can, “If they end up coming on board, I’d love to help you out with my personal tickets for a game." You can also be blunt, “I’m a salesperson and I’m always trying to meet new people, who else do you know?” When you’re struggling with sales, ask on every call.

Mark Bloom – Manager, Organizational Business Development – Cleveland Cavaliers

I think the most important time to ask for referrals is after the sale is made. The client is emotionally charged up after buying. We want to capitalize on the emotion by asking right then. Treat it as if the sales process isn’t complete until you make that ask.

Christian Larimer – Sr. Account Executive, Business Development – Arizona Diamondbacks

For individuals and families, if I have the two seats open next to the client I ask who they’d want sitting right beside them at the games, who else do you know? For businesses, the focus for me is on building a solid relationship with my customer and letting them know to give me a heads up if they’re bringing a client/prospect to the game. If they do, I swing by the seats to make a personal touchpoint. I then introduce myself and check in to make sure they have a great experience and feel special. Those lead to referrals too.

Chris Weddige – Assistant Director, Ticket Sales – Chicago Cubs

The first step is to have a referral mindset. Those that are always looking to connect dots find themselves consistently successful. The best referrals are natural and simple. Whether a tenured client or a distant prospect, the simplicity of the ask will maximize the success. Always be looking.

Everyone agreed, the key to getting referrals is to ask for them! Set a goal for yourself and/or your team members and hold yourself accountable to doing it. If you commit to it, you’ll be successful. Best of luck and cheers to getting more referrals.